Dutch brothel owners must speak sex workers’ language

red light districtDutch brothel owners must be able to communicate in the same language as sex workers who rent rooms in their brothels to ensure they have not been trafficked, the European Court of Justice has ruled.

Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, but brothels must have a city council licence and meet certain standards on safety, facilities and hygiene. This includes the owner being able to check whether the girls have been trafficked in a language they understand.

The court was asked by the city council to rule on the case of a brothel owner who was prevented by the council from opening two more window brothels in Amsterdam’s red light district because he did not speak Bulgarian or Hungarian. These are the languages spoken by the prostitutes who would work in the windows.

The court said in a statement this meant ‘operating a shop window brothel could not therefore be organised in such a manner as to prevent abuses and ensure that no criminal action was committed against the prostitutes’.

The brothel owner had said he could get round the language barrier by using an interpreter or online translation technology. This was rejected by the court.

In addition, the court rejected an appeal to EU single market rules, saying the case is in the public interest.

Most of the women who work in Amsterdam’s red light district come from outside the Netherlands.

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